Monthly Archives: August 2013

Mondays and Fridays are easy days

For a long time now, I’ve been one of those “I need to ride every day” type of guys.

Maybe I should rephrase: it’s not so much that I need to, but that I generally feel better when I do. A big part of that is psychological: doing a job where I’m sitting most of the time, doing something physical — and getting some sunlight — is good for my mental health.

That’s been one of the difficult aspects of this ordeal the last 3 months.

It’s finally changed. On August 5 I was cleared to ride a stationary bike.

I’ve ridden every day since then. At first on the stationary bike, and then after a few days, on my own bike on the trainer. Today I realized that I’m following the same routine I had 3 months ago: come home from work, change into cycling clothes, go ride.

And then have that good-tired feeling in the legs. This morning was the first time I’ve woken up with that feeling, because last night was the first time I’ve actually worked up a good sweat while on the trainer.

I rode again today, and will ride again tomorrow, because it will be Friday, and Friday is always an easy-spin day.

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Don’t it always seem to go …

Almost every day I’m able to find something to celebrate. This week I:
– started walking with one crutch
– drove myself to work for the first time since May
– went down the stairs to the basement
– drove to the velodrome to watch some racing
– rode in the big ring (briefly!) on the trainer, then took a shower (also first since May)

The downside is that there is always an excuse to open a bottle of wine in celebration. The recycling bin is getting pretty full with empties.

Joking aside, it occurred to me that we shouldn’t need a traumatic experience to find a reason to celebrate — every day. All these little things that you can do, every day, you don’t fully appreciate until you can’t do them.

I suppose it really is like the Joni Mitchell lyric: “you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone.” Maybe that is unavoidable. Maybe once I’m fully functional it will all feel different.

Then again I will always have this “zipper” going up the side of my leg, and the hunk of steel on the other side of it, to remind me.

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How do you ride on that thing?

ButcheredBrooks
I have a new appreciation for one of the primary difficulties people encounter when they take up cycling: the disagreement between butt and saddle.

I can’t count the number of times novice or non- cyclists have said this to me:
“How do you guys ride on those little saddles?”
“I’d need something big and cushy.”
“I’d love to bicycle, but I get too sore from the seat.”

Mostly I’ve shrugged and said, “you just have to get used to it. It’s like getting a callous.”

It’s been so long since I experienced that initial discomfort that I really didn’t remember what it felt like until yesterday. This has been the longest stretch that my butt hasn’t touched a saddle since 1986. That was when I bought my first real road bike — a Miyata 210 from Shaker Cycle.

It’s been 3 months since I’ve been able to sit on a bike. I finally broke the streak … sort-of … on Tuesday, when I rode a stationary bike first at the physical therapist, and then later at the fitness center at work.

While it wasn’t exactly pleasant, I can’t even convey how good it felt for my legs to be pedaling circles again. I actually got a bit teary-eyed.

That wasn’t a real bike though. So yesterday I climbed on my own road bike, attached to the trainer. With real cycling shorts and a jersey. Carefully.

The computer still had battery life. The gears still shifted. My legs still went round and round. The power meter said I was putting out watts, so this ride “counted”.

But oh man, did my ass hurt. I lasted 30 minutes. I can’t stand up and pedal yet, which made it worse.

So, yeah, I have a fresh understanding of what people experience when they attempt to start riding. If I didn’t know that it gets better, I might wonder: how does anyone do this? How can anyone ride for hours on an ass-hatchet?

Butt-soreness aside, I’m again convinced that cycling has magical powers. I’ve ridden 4 times this week — 3 on the stationary bike and once on mine — and after doing so I’m able to walk with one crutch, carrying a cup of coffee (or wine, my 2 favorite beverages) in the other hand. I also can’t describe how good that feels.

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I’m putting my foot down!

Literally.

I went in to the doctor’s appointment hoping for the best but preparing for the worst. I figured I’d made it 3 months, and if he said it was still more time on one leg, I could handle it.

The x-ray tech led me down the hall. I noted the difference between now and the first visit back in June. Then: wheeled down the hall in a wheelchair, needing help getting on the table. Now: walking with crutches, able to sit down on the table and swing my legs up.

The doctor looked at the x-rays and showed me the difference between then and now, pointing out the bone growth. It looked good, he said. The plan: over the next 2 weeks work up to 100% weight bearing, still using crutches. After 2 weeks, try going without. OK to drive at that point.

This was what I was hoping to hear.

Here’s the strange thing though: I’ve been like this now for long enough that this is what feels like normal. This is my life, on crutches. And using crutches is like … having a crutch to lean on. It’s like I have an excuse — for needing help, for moving slowly, for not doing what I am normally able to do.

Without the crutches, I’ll just be slow and lazy with no visible excuse. I was feeling like I didn’t want to give them up. And that was a weird feeling — and quite unexpected. I can see first hand how we adapt to things that happen to us, and how the inertia and comfort in the familiar makes us resistant to change. Even if that change will likely be for the better.

Leaving the doctor’s office I tentatively tried putting some weight on my right leg for the first time in 3 months. It felt like this:

In 24 hours it’s already gotten a bit better. The leg is still pretty wobbly, but it is a “first step”.

The other piece of good news: I asked, can I ride a stationary bike? Sure, he said. I didn’t explain that it is a time trial bike on a fluid trainer. I figured he didn’t need to know that.

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